Our Fleet Test Drive: Seat Leon - final report
29 July 2014
Author: Jack Carfrae
We bid farewell to our long-term Seat Leon
The whole branding thing mystifies me sometimes. I've never understood badge snobbery or the need to be seen to have a car or other product that's considered to be better than something else for image purposes.
That's why I struggle to find a case for pricier cars that do the same thing as a more affordable alternative. To that end, half a year with the Seat Leon has left me wondering why, other than badge appeal, the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3 (essentially the same cars under the skin) are as popular as they are.
The Seat does everything well. It's economical, with official figures of 74.3mpg and 99g/km (we averaged 49.9mpg, and an 87g/km Ecomotive version is now available), it's roomy, handsome  and, when we ran a whole-life cost comparison against equivalent 1.6 TDI diesel mid-spec versions of the Golf, A3 and even the 'budget' Golf offshoot Skoda Octavia, the Leon came up the most affordable.
Granted, the interior's finish  isn't quite up there with the Golf or A3, but it isn't bad by anyone's standards and it's full of useful features, such as the display that tells you not to forget your mobile phone , if you've connected one via Bluetooth, when you switch off the engine.
Downsides? It could do with a sixth gear for the motorway. Being in fifth around the 70mph mark in a modern diesel seems a bit unnatural. Also, our car would have been exempt from the London congestion charge had we logged on to TfL's website and registered it early on, but London mayor Boris Johnson's decision to drop the qualifying level to 75g/km or less has kyboshed that.
Sub-100g/km cars such as the Leon still benefit from what Johnson calls a 'sunset period' of charge exemption for another year or two, but the deal there is that they had to be registered for the discount before the new 75g/km limit came in. My first trip to the capital's inner roads in the Seat came after this, so the car was by then ineligible, and I has to pay the £10 charge.
Other than those two elements, and I'm picking holes there, it's very difficult to find fault with what is an exceptionally competent and cost-effective car. I'm not saying the Seat is better than the VW (I'm a big Golf fan - I even own a 24-year-old GTI, but that's another story), but in terms of what every lower medium offshoot of that car is supposed to achieve, the Leon is every bit as good as its siblings, better looking and cheaper.